Last Saturday we went down to the beautiful Wellcome Collection for a full day action-packed self-publishing conference organised by Writers & Artists. Self-publishing in the digital age is full of opportunities, but of course there are some pitfalls so there was lots to talk about. The excellent line-up of speakers shared their own self-publishing success stories, as well as giving practical advice for writers wanting to do the same. Below we share some of the best tips from the day.
Self-Publishing in the Digital Age Inspirations: top tips
Orna Ross, who heads up the Alliance of Independent Authors, a not-for-profit professional organisation for self-publishing authors, kicked things off. She was able to draw not only from her personal experience of self-publishing, but also that of lots of her members. ‘Self-publishing is about becoming the creative director of your own work, from the writing to getting it to readers.’ Indeed, there is a lot to think about and a lot of stages along the way. Make sure you are realistic about exactly what needs to happen to get your manuscript from a Word document on your computer to a book people are buying and reviewing. Know what’s involved, what you can do yourself and what you need help with. “I don’t know anybody who has produced a good book by themselves…they have teams”. This struck a chord with us because we have a whole team of people supporting our self-publishing authors from editors and proofreaders to designers and typesetters, to eBook conversion geeks, web-designers and much more.
Roz Morris, author and writing coach, spoke on the importance of editing. We loved her line, ‘Being edited can feel like being stuck with knives, but it’s a process all writers have to go through. It’ll make it better.’ So true. Getting feedback and being editing can be daunting, but it is necessary if you want your work to be the best it can be before publication (no one likes negative Amazon reviews pointing out errors that should have been fixed before publication). ‘You want your reader to completely trust you. Any mistakes, even tiny ones, will take them out of the story.’ Your reader needs to have a good experience reading your book, they need to be hooked on your story and completely engrossed in the world you have created. Irritate them at your peril. You don’t want them to get distracted by typos or little mistakes that hold them back from the full story experience. Find out more about editing here.
Joanna Penn, self-publishing superstar, whizzed us through the publishing process and gave some great tips along the way. She spoke about the importance of knowing what success means to you. For some people this is just being published and read, for her it meant earning a 6-figure salary from her writing. We agree, it is good to be clear about your publication goals right at the beginning of the writing process.
Like many successful authors, she has spent a lot of time building up her mailing list and urged all writers to do the same, simplifying the process to ‘Write books and create an email list.’ Aside from building a mailing list, she urged even the most reluctant of authors to get on social media and use it consistently. Like us, she believes it’s better to only be on one medium and do that one well than to try and spread yourself too thin and not get any of them right. For those still not convinced she said, ‘Pinterest: market in 1 min a day with a smart phone’. Regardless of the platform, she has one golden rule: ‘Be authentic, put yourself out there and connect with people’. On that note, the subject of paid for social media adverts was discussed at the end Q&A session. The panel all advised that authors exercise caution with this. They also reminded authors that there is no point in paying for adverts until you have got your author website looking professional.
Tracy Bloom, author of No One Has Sex On A Tuesday, talked us through how she prepared for publication. She told us that you need to really believe in your work before you start the publishing process: ‘Are you ready?: have you got peer feedback, is there a market for your work, have you got the help you need?’ You need to be sure there is demand for your book, that readers enjoy it and that you have all the professional help you need to pull it off before you start. She was very keen to involve other people and get feedback – not only with her writing, but even with her cover design, canvassing opinions of other mothers at her daughter’s gymnastics class. ‘Show your covers to people you don’t know. Ask them what they think the book’s about.’ If they don’t get it straight away, you need to go back to the drawing board. She also encouraged authors to ‘Stop thinking about it as a book; think about it as a product.’ This can be very difficult, but she gave authors some good ideas for how to start marketing their work (and make the most of local journalists) and even showed us a very funny video trailer she had made for her book.
Kate Harrison, author of the game-changing 5:2 Diet Book spoke about the benefits of being a hybrid author. Originally a journalist, she had an agent and a publisher, but they just couldn’t be convinced that her 5:2 book could work, so she turned to self-publishing and quickly became a bestseller. She believed that there was a market for her book, had done her research and grown a Facebook group of lots of dieters who were very keen to buy the book. She also knew that speed to market was important – because there was such an obvious gap in the market for a fasting diet book she suspected (rightly) that other authors would be quick to fill it.
Thankfully, self-publishing enabled her to be the first one to the party and the book was an instant bestseller.
We were giving free self-publishing consultations throughout the day and met with lots of lovely authors who had some great ideas for books – everything from walking theEnglish coastline, to the psychology of winning at sport and of course a few novelists and biographers too. In our consultations, we gave authors advice on: cover design, pricing, marketing and publicity angles and much more. We got great feedback from these sessions. If you would like to book a free consultation click here.